Crewe Alexandra v Crawley Town Preview: pace and power the key

Jordan Roberts –

A couple of wins can change the mood around a club and nowhere is that more evident than Crawley Town.

Many fans wanted Harry Kewell to be sacked as head coach after last month’s 4-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers, where he was accused of getting involved in an altercation with a supporter. Kewell shortly afterwards released a statement to say that he was merely listening to the supporter’s concerns and at no point needed to be held back.

Whichever version of events was true, the frosty nature of his relationship with fans meant that, in the subsequent three games against three promotion contenders, he needed his players to vindicate his management. They delivered with aplomb: two-goal margined home victories over Exeter and Mansfield sandwiched a creditable 1-1 draw at Coventry, leaving The Red Devils 17th and upwardly-mobile.

David Artell needs the same reaction at Crewe. He began the season with a little more natural goodwill than Kewell due to his achievements as club captain and for improving the team’s fortunes last season. And yet, the former centre-back finds himself under even more pressure than his Australian counter-part.

Crewe have a handful of technically gifted players in their squad, as George Cooper and Jordan Bowery have shown at times. The latter formed an impressive partnership with Chris Dagnall last season but when Chris Porter joined, Artell and his coaching staff have tried to shoehorn those players into the same team.

That has sometimes required Bowery to move out wide or Dagnall to play in midfield to free up a striking role for Porter, who has come in for more criticism than any of the other two.

It remains to be seen whether Crewe’s midfield has the physicality and defensive diligence to allow two or three forwards the freedom they require, without defensive consequences.

There are a lot of raw players in that midfield. Cooper, Tom Lowery, Conor Grant and Callum Ainley all have certain qualities but they are developing on the physical and tactical side of their games. Such a heavy reliance on those types of players out of possession, without a Danny Hollands type screening the back-four, has contributed to the return of 29 goals conceded in their last 14 games.

By contrast, Crawley have the sixth-best defensive record in League Two and Kewell certainly cannot be criticized for tactical naivety. Josh Yorwerth continues to develop at an impressive rate and was by far the man-of-the-match in last week’s 2-0 win over Mansfield.

There was a point when an opposing forward had rounded Glenn Morris and Yorwerth had not only the presence of mind to get back onto the line, he also had the composure to keep hold of the ball in a very pressured situation.

The ex-Ipswich man’s partner for the second half was Joe McNerney, who replaced the injured Mark Connolly at the break before planting home a superb back-post header from Jordan Roberts’ pinpoint right-wing cross. The speedy Ibrahim Meite, a late substitute, wrapped things up in injury time.

The pace and quality of Crawley’s front-line, which also includes the talented Enzio Boldewijn, means they will attack with more power and intent than their Cheshire hosts – that could be a defining factor at Gresty Road.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-3